March 6, 2016
Written by RTI International
At first, Kanduhukye Annet, head teacher of Rusikizi primary school in Kabale district, Uganda, was skeptical.
Like many teachers and students in low-income countries, Annet and her pupils each day face widespread barriers to learning. Crumbling infrastructure, teaching and learning materials that are outdated or non-existent, and high rates of absenteeism are just a few obstacles that make even meager progress toward literacy and comprehension arduous and slow-moving.
Annet, like many of her teacher peers, had her hands full just teaching in English. Then another requirement came. Uganda’s Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Sports (MoESTS) directed that pupils in grades 1 through 3 be instructed in their local language.
But there was good reason for the change, as Annet would soon see for herself.
Research shows that students who first learn to read in their own language acquire literacy skills and vocabulary more quickly. Additionally, students who first learn to read in a language they grew up hearing are then able to transfer those literacy skills to acquire new languages, including English, faster.
The USAID/Uganda School Health and Reading Program, an initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by RTI International, is putting this knowledge into practice. In collaboration with education stakeholders—starting with the language communities themselves—the program is providing improved new reading materials, instructional methods and teacher training, and, through these activities, is placing a focus on local language literacy instruction.
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